For many, Camp Manitowa is more than just a summer camp, it is a second home where memories are made.
Located in Benton between Rend Lake and Lake Hamilton, Camp Manitowa has been in operation for the past nine years. The residential coed camp is owned by Andy Brown and Dan Gabrabel.
There is no lack of activities at the camp's three two-week sessions each summer. Campers can enjoy water activities such as aqua jumping, fishing, kayaking, water skiing, tubing, and free time in the pool and lake.
For the athletic lover, Camp Manitowa offers horseback riding, baseball, golf, soccer, ultimate Frisbee, yoga, rock climbing, rope courses and zip lining. There are also other activities like arts, crafts, drive-in movies and environmental education.
With a well-rounded curriculum, the best thing about the camp is something that can't be planned.
"The best part about camp is all the friends you meet," said second-year camper Sydney Fowler.
Quinn Gaffney agrees. "One thing is the people," he said. "I know a lot of the counselors very personally. They are some of my best friends."
Gaffney has been coming to Camp Manitowa for five years. The friendships he has made are what brings him back. "It's the campers that you see every year. You wait all year, and then when you finally get here you get to see your friends that you've been waiting to see all year, and it's really fun."
While the program is geared for students from grades two through 10, those who have aged out can return as counselors in training, becoming eligible to be counselors after completing grade 12.
Madison Hewitt is co Girls Village director, co counselor in training director, and arts and crafts director. "This place is our home, completely. We always talk about when we leave we are missing something," she said. "When we come back, it is the vibe, We feel complete. We do it for the kids, we do it for our friends. We love this place so much."
Co Girls Village director, co counselor in training director, and aquatics director Maya Poger said the camp experience is "amazing. The vibe is just loving, caring, peace, happiness."
For more information on the camp, check out the website at campmanitowa.com.